Base

 

 


 

Even though I had been away from the nest for several nights in a row now, coming out of the shadows into such a huge space still filled me with terror and wonder. I looked up and was immediately spellbound by the bright, silvery disk shining through the opening on the almost unimaginably distant wall.

 

I didn't realize Anjin had been standing next to me until she nudged my abdomen with a middle leg. "This your first time seeing the moon, Rilsa?"

 

It took an effort to tear my eyes from the ethereal wonder and look at my mentor. "I'd heard of it, but I could never have imagined it was so beautiful." I hung my head. "I must sound foolish."

 

Anjin's antenna stroked the side of my mandible with a feathery touch. "I've seen the moon many times, and I'm still struck with awe. If that is foolishness, then I'm the greatest fool of them all."

 

I giggled at the thought of someone so old and wise being seen as foolish, then leaned against her and basked in the splendor of it all. Eventually, Anjin sighed. "If I could, I would stay here all night, but the babies are hungry and we're supposed to be on a scouting mission."

 

"Are you sure it'll be okay for me to lead tonight?"

 

My mentor nodded. "Just remember: smell, don't taste."

 

I lifted my antennas high into the air so I could smell what was nearby and avoid tasting what was on the ground.

 

With a great deal of approval and maybe just the tiniest hint of mirth, Anjin said, "Very good. Lead on scout!"

 

Not feeling ready to venture out into the open yet, I decided to start my search near the wall. I'd been doing a good job of sticking to just smelling, but when I came across a a dusty morsel, my antennas fell for a moment.

 

"Rilsa!"

 

My antennas shot back up. "I'm sorry," I said, flushed with guilt.

 

"I know how tempting it can be to taste something that smells good, but you need to be careful. There are some things out here that could seriously harm you if touch them. Don't worry too much, though. No harm has been done, and you've found a nice sized bit of food. Why don't you scout ahead while I mark this for the gatherers?"

 

Feeling relieved that I'd managed to escape without a serious scolding, I quickly agreed. The scent of Anjin's marker had just started drifting to me when I came up to a large, flat, and very interesting smelling ... something. Before I could think to stop myself, my right antenna dropped and made contact.

 

Searing pain shot up it and made my right eye throb. I tried pulling away, but my antenna was stuck. Air whooshed out of my abdomen as something heavy landed on my back. With my left eye, I could see it was Anjin. She had my loose antenna pinned down against my head with her front legs. She held the rest of me tightly with her remaining limbs.

 

In a calm voice that sounded like it was working very hard to remain calm, she said, "Don't move. You've just found one of the giants' traps."

 

Cold dread battled with the burning pain. "The giants?"

 

"Yes. I'm going to have to do something that will hurt a lot."

 

"What?" I asked, shivering at the steel in her voice.

 

"I'll have to ... bite your antenna."

 

I tried to struggle out of my mentor's grasp, but she was stronger and heavier than me. "Please," I begged, "anything but that!"

 

"I wish there was something else that could be done, little one." Her voice was tinged with bitterness. "Unfortunately, if I don't do it, and do it now, you'll die."

 

Even though I could feel the life being burnt out of me, it still took a while before I finally said, "Okay, do it."

 

My antenna had started going numb, but there was still a dull sting when my mentor bit it. I began trembling as she dragged me away from the deadly trap. "I'm so, so sorry."

 

"Hush, young scout. The worst is over."

 

It took me a moment for what she had said to sink in. "You still consider me a scout?"

 

"Of course I do, unless you wish to be something else."

 

"I've always wanted to be a scout. I still do. But how could you accept me as such?"

 

"Will you ever taste something you don't recognize?"

 

"No, never!"

 

"Then you've learned an important lesson. I believe the lesson you've learned tonight will make you a better scout." She looked down at me and brushed the top of my head with her antennas. "Can you stand?"

 

"I think so." I said as I got up on slightly wobbly legs.

 

"Good. Let's head back to the nest. I believe we've had enough adventuring for one night."

 

As I followed behind my mentor, sight began returning to my right eye. Everything was a little dim, but the moon was still bright. Although half of my face burned where it wasn't numb, I was still overcome by a wondrous, nearly indescribable joy.

 


 

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